Newsletter N.1/2012

Dear Friends,

I had promised you the first edition of the ICYA Newsletter by the first of July, and here we are the 7th, a week late. Not bad for the first edition, but as you all no doubt have noticed: the earth is rotating all the time faster and faster and it is almost impossible to get everything done in one day that has to be done, especially if you have eight (8) children with four legs each (32 legs) that need to be fed, medicated etc.

We had planned to have the Newsletter starting with everyone’s account of how they started yoga, but I only got something from Emily, so I will go into that at a later time.

I would rather start talking about something else.

A couple of days ago I managed to sit through the whole dvd of ‘Yoga Woman’. It took some effort, but I did it. And I learned a lot.

There were women that I really like a lot – some of them young, some of them older, some of them teaching in Africa, some in prison, some to cancer patients. Courageous women out there in world to make a difference, backpacking in blistering heat, dancing with jolly fat African ladies, rubbing shoulders with murderesses, building yoga schools in the middle of nowhere. My turban off to them.

Then there are also the usual suspects that care a lot about their ‘look’. Touting a kind of advertisement for eternal youth??, spirituality ??? leanness ??, I-know-it-all-ness???

Long loose hair (which gets in the way all the time), braids (American Indian ‘look’ or the I-am-a-free-spirit?), facelifts (plenty of those), probably breast lifts (could do with one myself but now it is too late, wouldn’t be credible at this point).

This free publicity for some dream inside the dreamer’s head, I have to be honest, made me giggle. I confess, I am growing old. There was a time that I would be annoyed and rant on and on. Now I just get all bubbly inside, and I remember how silly I was myself , and still am – among all the animals the human animal is the only animal that gets lost in silly daydreams and confuses reality with fantasy, trying to live out fantasy against the backdrop of reality that with the first good-sized disaster crashes into a million pieces.

There is a Dutch saying : Good wine does not need a label. I do not know why it is a Dutch proverb as they don’t grow wine there, but never mind…..

What I am saying is, and here I quote my mother rest in peace: Just behave normally, than you are already weird enough.

We are all weirdoes in one way or another. Let us accept that and get on with our life.

Ahhh mothers, one appreciates them only when it is too late.

She went to a yoga class. I do not know why. Must have been somewhere late fifties. Middle aged lady doing soft yoga on foam rubber mats, that after a while used to be full of: hair, dust, dead animals (flies and things). Impossible to wash, just put up with it.

I loved it and soon became the dolly (strangely enough this has been my fate throughout my early days: I was the dolly of the Krishnamurti set up, then I was the dolly of Iyengar, then I was the dolly of Vanda Scaravelli.

Yes, it was soft yoga, quiet, simple, probably not very precise (and again I confess, I am getting old and do not care too much about precision myself anymore).

The world has changed. Everybody that I know is stressed out. Computers and technology were made to make life simpler and easier. Well, guess what. It didn’t.

There used to be a time that we communicated through letters. Let us see: for a letter to arrive in Italy ( I am talking about the seventies and eighties), it took about three weeks. The letter then ended up in a pile of other letters, to be pulled out after one or two weeks for replying. Whole procedure took about a month.

Now not a week goes by that I get an email, and if I do not answer the same day, I get a second one asking if I did not receive the first one, and please answer a.s.a.p.


Let us face it. Yoga at this point should be a holiday from all this technological madness. Not a holiday in the Caribbean, or the Maldives, or some other exotic playa.

The real holiday is inside.

The word ‘holiday’ comes from holy-day.

If we can go inside and find that playa that is inside. Not so easy. Another confession. I get often lost on the rocks – never mind smooth white sand. My playa is full of stones.

The last couple of years those rocks were pretty big, but I am navigating. Also trying to avoid getting sunburnt.

For the Christians Sunday is the ‘holy day’, for the Jews Saturday, for the Muslims Friday.

In yoga every day should be a holy day. The sun comes up. The earth had made another round underneath our feet. A moment to rejoice.

I welcome you all to the ICYA and let us see how it and the Newsletter develops.

Next time I want to share with you some thoughts about feet, and the connection they have with the eyes and the brain. I have had some interesting experiences lately in relationship to that.

Please feel free to submit to me any thoughts or articles that you wish to share, and please tell your friends about our work. We would like to create our own website where we can place articles and discussions, but we need subscriptions for that to finance it.

I wish you all a nice day.

Dona Holleman


It is debatable whether the balance comes from the feet or the head. In the Alexander Technique they take it from the position of the head on the atlas.

My personal experience is that the body can get jolly well out of whack by the simple act of spraining your ankle. I did this the first time when I was ten, and a wild tom boy, jumping over gutters etc. Next thing I knew was that I had to spend my two months of holidays in the Javanese mountain on crutches.

Not of a nature to take too much notice of trifling things like that, I continued my life, regularly falling over stones and re-dislocating my ankle.

Till recently my whole neck and shoulders screwed up and I couldn’t sleep anymore.

Time for a visit to the bone-breaker. Wow, that was one hell of an experience, but he did manage to put my body back into axis and to reset my ankle, giving me a whole set of exercises to do to strengthen the muscles.

As I think that those exercises can be useful for anyone, even those not in the habit of spraining ankles, I give them here to you. You can do each exercise for 30 seconds (don’t be fooled, 30 seconds on the balance board is not to be sneezed at), and build up to one minute.

In yoga we are used to macro-movements, big ones fairly on the surface of the body. This is specially for those who do ‘fast’ yoga like Ashtanga and hot yoga. Not very subtle, to say the least.

Working on the balancing board forces the body to apply micro-movements (which we do anyway also in daily life: just standing up without toppling over like a Russian doll implies millions of micro-movements throughout the body.

So let’s go. Buy a balancing board. The Kettler one that I have costs around 10 euro, and place it on a yoga mat (anti-slip) close to a wall where you can hang onto in case you lose balance.

Exercise 1

Place both feet on the board, on the edges, so that they are at about hip width, the inner borders of the feet parallel to each other. Push the right foot down so that the edge on the right side of the board touches the floor, and then push the left foot down. This exercise is like working on the ‘step’. Be sensitive as to which foot is faster and pushes the board harder onto the floor. If one foot is stronger it tends to rotate the board on the mat. Try to balance the force in both feet.

Exercise 2

Push the front of the feet down onto the board so that the front edge of the board touches the floor. Again be sensitive as to which foot is stronger: if one foot is stronger the board will rotate. Then push the heels down, so that the back edge of the board touches the floor. This is the action in the upper spring joint (the talo-cruralis joint). It is also the joint that dislocates (I am the champion in that) if you don’t look where you are going.

Exercise 3

Make a clock-wise circle: push the front of the feet down so that the front of the board touches the floor, then push the right foot more down so that the right edge of the board touches the floor, then the heels so that the back edge of the board touches the floor and then the left foot so that the left edge of the board touches the floor. Then do the same thing anti-clockwise.

Exercise 4

In the last exercise for this Newsletter you stand with both feet on the board, on the outer edges, inner edges of the feet parallel to each other. Look straight ahead and balance, trying to keep the board perfectly still and level. Here specially you smoke out the bully: the leg/foot that is stronger will tip the board on that side, so encourage the weaker one to be a bit more active.

These exercises seem like nothing, but they engage the whole leg from the sole of the foot to the hip joint, working the muscles that are most intimate with the bones.

Good luck and till next time!

There is plenty more where this came from, so be prepared for more exercises next letter!